By Mariah Melendez and John Rook
CHESHIRE – Seven referendum questions approved by voters this week equal more than $5 million in spending.
All of the appropriations will go towards maintenance and/or upgrades planned by the town, with an emphasis on projects at local school buildings. Almost all of the questions were passed by large margins.
The first referendum question asked voters to approve $310,000 in funding to help the town improve security at local buildings and schools. Officials have spoken in recent months about fortifying entryways at school buildings and potentially creating buffer zones between entry and access to the main portions of the buildings.
The second question requested $1.8 million to repair the bridge on West Johnson Avenue that crosses the Ten Mile River. The money will be used to replace the superstructure, which has a crack in it and has required weight limits be put on the bridge.
Approximately $1.7 million was approved for road work and maintenance around Cheshire. The town normally does road projects throughout the spring and summer months.
Perhaps the most widely discussed appropriations focused exclusively on upgrades to Doolittle, Highland, and Cheshire High Schools. Voters approved $250,000 to do work on windows at the high school to make the school more energy efficient; $450,000 to improve Highland’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning units; and $600,000 to replace the boilers at Doolittle.
The appropriations attracted attention prior to Election Day as some residents raised questions, via social media, about the logic of pushing forward with expensive upgrades at local schools after a new committee was recently formed that will be tasked with offering options for how Cheshire can more effectively handle its school infrastructure.
However, Councilor David Veleber, who easily won a second term on Tuesday, stated that each one of the projects approved on Tuesday must be done before any long-range plans for school infrastructure are implemented. He expressed his appreciation that the voters agreed.
“I am really excited these all passed,” Veleber stated. “I know a lot of people were unsure (about) replacing things for both Doolittle and Highland if we were going to knock those buildings down, but I feel like those are still very structurally viable options for the town and they won’t be going anywhere.”